HOT SPRINGS, ARK. – “Old Pond” cartoonist / big hit at haiku Hot Springs: / Jessica Tremblay.
November rolls in with hints of summer and winter. Autumn’s colors dot the hillsides surrounding historic Bathhouse Row. Amid falling leaves a dozen and a half haiku versifiers, from Boston to Memphis to Plano to Vancouver, descend upon the Arlington Hotel.
This geographically diverse group is welcomed by Howard Lee Kilby, perennial guru of Arkansas’s haiku community. Then by Dr. Paul Tucker, longtime leader in Hot Springs poetry circles. Then by National Park Superintendent Col. Josie Fernandez.
Friday’s program kicks off with “laughing yoga,” led by local resident Susan Julie Gonzales. A series of serious sessions follow, such as Shreveport, La., poet Nan Dozier’s presentation, “Let’s Do the Twist.” Dozier stresses the importance of originality for those bent on being published. A one-liner of hers in the latest “Frogpond,” the Haiku Society of America’s semi-annual periodical, is illustrative:
still waiting for you: half my tuna sandwich
Now, there’s a twist!
Next up is Raffael de Gruttola, author of two haiku books, founding member of the Boston Haiku Society, and past president of HSA. Outside temps soar into the 70s as he expounds on the haiku of Nick Virgilio. During a 20-plus-year stint as a recognized poet, Virgilio appeared repeatedly on NPR and had his own program on an FM station in Camden, N.J. Good stuff, great presenter!
Day two brings us New Orleans psychic Juliet Pazera discussing “Tarot and Inspiration.” Followed by HSA President Dr. David Lanoue’s interactive workshop, “Fairy Tales, Novels, and Haiku.” A faculty member at Xavier University of Louisiana, Lanoue is fluent in Japanese and brings a classy touch to the table – pun intended.
Other outstanding programs include Plano psychiatrist Susan Delaney’s “Living Jewelry and Haiku,” Memphis’ Chris Spindel’s “Life with Ferns,” and Van Buren, Ark., teacher Andrew Lockhart’s “Photography Haiga.”
As temps fall into the 40s Saturday afternoon, up steps Jessica Tremblay of Vancouver, B.C., to warm the crowd. Librarian by day, artist and poet by night, Tremblay’s making the rounds of haiku conferences as “cartoonist in residence.” She regales crowds with stories from her “Old Pond Comics,” featuring Master Kawazu, the frog in Basho’s “Old pond – a frog jumps in – the sound of water” haiku.
After attending conference sessions, Tremblay works into the evenings, drawing personalized cartoons for all. Including one in which two frogs talk while birds of prey and alligators lurk:
“Four across, two down.”
(Guess who’d made a crossword for the conference.)
Born in Quebec, Tremblay learned English in college. Early employment included archiving news stories at a TV station. A series of events led her to a library 1,000 miles west, where spare time facilitated learning haiku, drawing and a great deal more. An accomplished speaker, Tremblay has the audience in the palm of her hand as she entertains, educates and enlightens.
Watch out for this young woman. She’s going places! It was my pleasure to chauffeur her from Little Rock’s Clinton Airport to Hot Springs and back. She’s creative, energetic, and entrepreneurial. Check out www.oldpondcomics.com.
Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.